This is not an article about how to arrange your home office or set up a VOIP to make client calls. This is about preventing your employer from revoking your ability to work from home.
Over the years, I’ve seen many businesses offer employees the ability to work from home — usually as a hiring or retention perk — only to declare it a failure a year later and begin revoking the privilege. I could write an article about how the business needs to change it’s practices for communicating and evaluating productivity before it is ready to try out-of-sight management; but this article isn’t for the business. This article is for the employee who has this privilege and wants to make sure they keep it; and while it might be unfair, you can lose that privilege even if you believe it is working.
Your employer might revoke work-from-home privileges for reasons completely out of your control, but here are 5 things you can do to reduce the chance it happens to you:
- Don’t call it “home.” This sounds stupid, but when people think about “home,” they think about sleeping late and trodding around in your pajamas all day doing random chores. Call it your “home office,” so that it is clear you have a place set aside to do business (even if it really is your kitchen table). This is about establishing that you clearly divide your work and your home activities.
- Discuss productivity expectations with your supervisor every week. The second reason managers go sour on work-from-home is that they don’t know how to judge your productivity in any way other than hours at work; and if they can’t see you, they wonder if you are working at all. Proactively lay out what you intend to get done for the week, and make sure your supervisor is happy with that level of work.
- Actually work. You think, “duh,” but employees “working from home” have sometimes crossed the line, treating it more like vacation time. Work from home can be convenient for reducing commutes, handling home service calls (in that 4-hour window) or even reducing childcare costs; but the idea is that you will still get a full day’s work done. You can spread the work out over a longer day, but it is not time off.
- Communicate from your home office frequently. Another common reason for disliking work-from-home is that you aren’t there to have quick conversations when something comes up. Sure, your supervisor could pick up the phone or send you an email; but in-the-moment, they would rather just stop at your desk, so if you aren’t there … Make it a point to drop an email once a day, and they are more likely to respond to that email with updates or open questions. Better yet: if you can integrate a tool like Slack into the office, you can have real-time conversations with your co-workers just like you were there. (Just make sure you actually respond in a timely manner, or they will begin doubting you are at your computer at all.)
- Have a strategy for accommodating special meetings that fall on a day you are in the home office. Regular status meetings should be arranged on days you are already in the office; but special meetings might be necessary to accommodate out-of-town clients or project emergencies. Putting work-from-home in front of important meetings sends a message that you aren’t committed to the success of the business (and can even make you seem ungrateful for the privilege). If traveling into the office isn’t possible, then work out a virtual attendance practice (Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.) so your face can be in the meeting.
Remember that it is still a privilege to work from home — one that not everyone can access. It is built on the principle that you can be equally valuable to the business regardless of where you work, so demonstrating that fact should be your goal at all times.
And like any new or alternative idea, work-from-home stays or goes depending on whether it works for the business. If you have the benefit and want to keep it, it is in your best interest to show the business that it works for them. That way, it can keep working for you.
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